Preparing yourself for a 100 mile run

Organising Yourself

If it's one thing I've found is that getting things sorted like drop bags, food, drinks, back packs, crew items, race instructions, navigation aids, ipod playlists etc etc is that it takes an awful lot longer than you think it will. Most 100 mile events start early in the morning, 5am, 6am, 7am those sorts of times, that means you want to be getting to bed early the evening before as you're going to be up a couple of hours before the start. At least.

Sort out things ahead of time, don't leave things till the evening before. Getting to bed at 11pm for a 3am alarm call guarantees about 90 minutes of sleep tops! Got it? Sort it out early, days before if possible.

Have a Plan - Know the Timings

Cut offs at ultras are hard. Miss them by one minute and you're out. Miss the finish by one minute, shake of the hand, thanks for coming. You just DNF. No whining, no tears, no fuss. It's therefore important that you make sure you live inside the cut offs and have a plan to be inside them. To this end I make up a luggage label to tie to my rucksack ( I've tried it without twice and somehow managed to lose them!) when I'm done I cover them with tape, they're not much good if they fall apart or become unreadable if it rains, covered in sweat, dribbled on etc!

On this I have...

1) the sun up and sun down times.

2) Each aid station, its name (rather than just a number as people tend to refer to places by name rather than number and CP10 or CP11 can get mixed up real easy at 2am in the morning!), the distance, and the cut off time. In this example for the NDW100 I also have the 24 hour pace time, I'm hoping for 27 hours so I'm looking to remain roughly halfway between the 24 split and the cut off time.

3) On the reverse I have the times and pace I did for the NDW100 in 2012 basically as a cue to myself of the minimum pace I need to be doing and perhaps as much as anything to tell myself how far (hopefully!) ahead of 2012 I am at any point.

4) I use real world times rather than race times as I plan on using more than one Garmin and using race times immedately gets confusing when you change watches. Plus if things get tight, its real world times the aid stations are working off, not your Garmin time.

Just for the record I finished dead last at the NDW100 in 2012 (although in my defence I did deliberately slow down in the last mile or so to allow a lady to pass me!) But it's very clear where I went awry, 22.51 and 21.39 miles through the night does not for a quick time make!

Little Plastic Bags

Get some small zip lock bags, about 2 inches square is all you need. Divide up your pills and electrolytes and keep them in these. Not all in one either in case you drop or otherwise lose them. It rains, you sweat, drinks get dribbled, and this will keep them dry. A dribble of water on your stash of electrolytes is trouble, so divide them up in to two, three, four or more bags, just so they're protected. One drop of sweat in your stash of S!Caps can be a lot of salty S!Caps for the rest of your race!

Ease of Access with Drop Bags

Something that never occurred to me until it happened was that organising drop bags is a tricky business, especially when you're tired, sore and can't think straight. So when putting them together have a think about what order you'll be needing things likely.

In my main drop bag I like to have things in other bags, clothes in one, food/drink in another. But even these can be subdivided depending on how much you have in there. If for example you plan on changing socks, then make sure they're on top and the extra rain jacket that you may or may not need is at the bottom. Saves digging through a bag full of stuff trying to locate that sock you know is floating about. Extra small items? Batteries, pills, gels etc? Put them in a separate bag, out of containers, ready to go. Trust me that at 2am it can get really frustrating really quickly when you have pull everything out to find that sock…

Waterproof Drop bags

Never assume your drop bags are going to be safe, warm and dry at all times. I have mine in industrial strength PVC waterproof bags the sort that they have on yachts etc. Why? Because that never occurred to me until I did Heartlands 100 in biblical rain and wind and the poor volunteers couldn't get the gazebos etc to stay up. A bag in the rain for 10 hours can get awfully wet, and if you want something dry and warm to put on and its soaked, it can lead to unhappy thoughts. Waterproof your stuff.


The weather is a huge factor in long ultra events. And whilst we can't control it, we can prepare for it, and then prepare for the unexpected to go with it.

Typically I've found that forecasts longer than about 10 days out might get the temperature in the right area, but usually the rainfall pattern is very variable, especially if winds are moderate or more.

From five days out then it starts tending to get more accurate. Be prepared, check the weather, and check the weather right up until the point you can no longer check the weather. You want to know the range it's likely to be, how much rain you're likely to get and the wind and its direction. The more information you have the better prepared you can make yourself. Always assume the worst and that way you may be pleasantly surprised.


If you wear glasses, have some access to lens cleaning tissue. If it's been raining hard, or is dusty, or you're by the sea its amazing how dirty they can get after 20 hours. You can walk and clean and suddenly you may well discover that it's actually not anywhere near as foggy as you thought it was.


A buff serves many purposes so I always wear or carry one on the long runs. Aside from the obvious uses as hat, neck warmer/protector, face mask for bitterly cold wind, head torch base layer, it can be tied and used as a little bag, an alternative to tissues if you find they've disintegrated, fallen out or perhaps you didn't bring any...., a wound dressing, flannel to wipe your face - they wash out and dry pretty quick......countless uses for them! And if you've really had to use it for a dire toilet emergency then you'll pleased you had the little bag your mobile was in too! No littering allowed!


If you have to carry a map or route book or similar paper item, make sure that you enclose it in a waterproof cover or as near waterproof as you can get it. A decent downpour, sweat, general wear and tear can turn what was a lovely looking sheet of instructions into papier-mâché.

Make things Automatic

By this I mean do as much as you can beforehand so that on the day(s!) it happens automatically. So if you are changing rucksacks, or putting a new one on, if at all possible have it already filled with fluids, pockets filled with snacks or electrolytes or a freshly charge ipod. Putting on a jacket for the night? Put a pair of gloves in the pocket beforehand. Changing shoes? Change your socks too, stuff them in the shoes, that way you can't forget. Trust me when you're tired and creaky, you might know that you should do something, but sometimes its just real hard to force yourself.

Whilst you think you'll put on the jacket, put on the gloves, change your socks, at 2am the mind is fuzzy and you may forget, the gloves might have slipped out of sight or anyone of a dozen reasons. Likewise in a nice warm aid station putting on gloves isn't the first thing on your mind, two miles down the trail it may well be and if you forgot, you'll be glad to stick your hands in your pocket to find them there!

Emergency Pack

Whilst some events have a mandatory kit list, especially in the UK or Europe, nomatter what that says at the bottom of my rucksack I carry a waterproof little bag with emergency supplies in. Why? Well, just in case... Typically this contains a tiny torch, spare headlight batteries, a tiny swiss army knife, small and large plasters, moleskin (blister patches) and a couple of wet wipes/thin dressings. It's weight I'd rather not be carrying, but if your headtorch fails in the middle of a forest, you're stuck without a spare torch, batteries die? I always have spares... and have been very grateful for the plasters and wet wipes for a couple of emergencies of different types! Only thing I've never actually used in there so far is the tiny knife/scissors/tweezers etc on the tiny swiss army knife, but you never know...

Drop Bags - Important Items

Never put anything you don't mind losing in a drop bag. Or at least nothing critical like a car key or a mobile phone. On occasion these things go astray or imagine your car key is in your finish line drop bag and you roll an ankle at mile 9. Getting that key back so you can get home could be a complete nightmare, at least if you have your key with you then you can do the driving to find your drop bags for example. Or if it simply gets lost or some such, could seriously ruin your race for the sake of carrying an extra 25 grams. I'll often carry my head torch the whole race, why? If I put my lights in a drop bag and its not there, or someone reversed a car over it, or it got dropped in a puddle or any of a dozen things then my race is over when I find this out. Yes its a pain, but but its something else which then is under my control, not somebody elses.

Mobile Phones / Electrical Items

When I carry these I keep them in little waterproof bags. Why? They're likely to get wet, or damp at least, from sweat or rain. A waterlogged mobile phone isn't much use, sure I could do without the extra 5 grams, but who cares, if it rains for ten hours you may be very grateful for that little bag! I sometimes like to listen to music on the long ones, like the phone, I have an iPod shuffle or two in tiny plastic bags to keep them dry.


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